On Tuesday, the Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow convicted Mikhail Kosenko, recently declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, of involvement in “mass riots” and use of force against police officers during clashes between police and protesters after a sanctioned opposition march was prevented by police from reaching its end point, on Bolotnaya Square, in Moscow on May 6, 2012, the day before President Putin’s inauguration for his third presidential term. At the request of prosecutors, Kosenko, who suffers from a post-traumatic mental illness that previously required no hospitalization, had been declared mentally incompetent by the court, which has now sentenced him to compulsory psychiatric treatment, thus apparently reviving the state’s punitive use of “psychiatry” against dissidents during the late Soviet period.
During Tuesday’s court hearing, Mr. Kosenko made the following statement, which was recorded by Novaya Gazeta reporter Yulia Polukhina and published in the original Russian on the newspaper’s web site. My translation is illustrated with sketches by artist Victoria Lomasko, who was also present at the hearing. I thank her for permission to reproduce them here.
The most valuable thing in the country is freedom. This is what the majority of our population is deprived of to one degree or another. This applies in particular to prisoners. A huge number of people are in prisons and camps for no reason, and no one will help them. And those who are there for crimes they have committed do not deserve the conditions [in which they are imprisoned]. As the prisoners themselves say, no one [is] able to recover after imprisonment. The plight of the mentally ill in incarceration is hard; the most difficult thing for them is haloperidol, a banned substance. There are side effects from it and many fatalities. It causes muscle cramps, rigidity, and pain.
Mikhail Kosenko: “The hardest thing is halperidol. It causes muscle spasms and pain.”
Our people are used to suffering. An eastern model of society is being built in Russia—lack of freedom in exchange for a sated life. The authorities base their propaganda on material measures—money spent and its results. That happiness doesn’t lie in money is an ancient idea, although one now challenged. Happiness lies in people’s freedom. There are many countries where the material standards are lower than in Russia but the level of satisfaction with life is much greater. Our people are used to living in poverty, and they imagine that a little prosperity is a big achievement.
Prosecutor: “Kosenko is a danger to himself and others.” (Judge Ludmila Moskalenko, who found Kosenko guilty, is seated on the right.)
Freedom is freedom from evil. Real opportunities… Our country has great potential, and different kinds of freedom are needed to realize it, but they either do not exist or are restricted. Freedom of the media… The most important medium is television, but there is censorship on [Russian television], which is prohibited [by law].
The authorities impose their strategy on television reporters. That is why pickets, rallies and marches are so important for the opposition. It was on this ground that the authorities decided to tussle with the opposition. Rallies and marches organized by the authorities are underwhelming, so they took the routе of creating all kinds of obstacles [for the opposition]. The authorities decided it was they who determined the location of rallies, even though the law says otherwise. The opposition wants to hold a rally on one square, and the authorities force a different square on them. Our society, accustomed to laws being violated, was not much bothered by this. Then the authorities have used obstacles, nuisances and coercion to make rallies ineffective and to limit the area where they are held, as happened on May 6, 2012.
Defense lawyer Dmitry Aivazyan: “Kosenko will be in the same condition ten years from now. There is nothing to treat.”
While drastically limiting the area of the rally, as opposed to what had been agreed, the authorities considered its illegal demands the law. Because the authorities think they are the law. When, amidst the crush [on May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square], dozens of people broke through police lines, the authorities decided they now had the right to disperse the tens of thousands of people who had come to the rally. With their tactics and politically motivated actions, the authorities constantly irritated people, who stood up to these illegal actions. The authorities break the law, but when they are rebuffed, they pretend to be legalists themselves, what with their Article 318 [use of violence against authorities – Editor] Riot policemen perceived the demonstrators as their enemies, meaning that they had been coached ahead of time to act so harshly, to react so harshly. The riot police on Bolotnaya Square obviously were not the law. Their superiors had politically encouraged the actions of the riot police on Bolotnaya Square. It was a political confrontation. The demonstrators were protesting against unfair elections. The demand for fair elections is the most just demand. The authorities oppose fair elections, because [if fair elections are held], they will have to resign. The regime consists largely of incompetent people, of the people who break the law. What we need is rotating governments, not the everlasting tenure of a single regime. With the current regime, Russian will be unable to deal the major challenges that will be inevitable in the future.
Defense lawyer Alexei Miroshnichenko: “No one can be held liable for the same crime twice.” Seated to his right is Kosenko’s sister Ksenia.
Combined with low efficiency, the huge exertions the authorities sometimes display lead to significantly poorer results than could be otherwise. In our country’s history, power has never passed to the opposition legally. The current regime has set many anti-records: the highest consumption of heroin in the world, and it is the same thing with alcohol. And such a regime is competent? And should remain in power forever? The people protesting against it are wrong?
Supporters of the government say there is no one else to run the country. This is doubtful. Russia has huge numbers of talented and strong-willed people, and they can get into power only through honest and fair elections. I want to thank everyone who has supported me—my lawyers, my sister, and everyone who has come to these hearings. As for my sanity, I ask the court to consider me sane.